Dr. Pruthvi Manjunatha’s fascination in transportation engineering evolved out of his curiosity for the subjects of geography, economics, and sociology while pursuing his undergraduate studies at Visvesvaraya Technological University, India. His interest in the world of research was further piqued while working as an undergrad in a soils science laboratory. When the first Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) project came to his hometown of Mysore, India, he became captivated by the world of transportation engineering. The project is still active today.
All these experiences drove him to pursue a master’s in transportation engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay (India). After a short stint working in the private sector as a consultant, he decided to pursue a doctoral degree in civil engineering (transportation) at the University of Florida.
Today, Dr. Manjunatha works as the manager of the I-STREET “living lab” at the University of Florida Transportation Institute (UFTI). I-STREET stands for Implementing Solutions from Transportation Research and Evaluating Emerging Technologies. I-STREET deploys and evaluates numerous advanced technologies including connected and autonomous vehicles, smart devices, and sensors with the goal of developing applications that will enhance mobility and safety.
As the I-STREET manager, Dr. Manjunatha coordinates with the City of Gainesville (Florida) and the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) on the planning and implementation of various I-STREET projects funded by the FDOT, the STRIDE Center, the National Science Foundation (NSF), and others. But his work does not stop there. Dr. Manjunatha engages with industry stakeholders and is the leading author behind the development of proposals and grants related to the testbed development.
“I work with project PIs and industry partners to coordinate software, hardware, and applications efforts to ensure consistency and interoperability of the various components to be used on I-STREET,” Dr. Manjunatha said. “I also write project reports, journal articles, and manage data collection and data analysis efforts while supervising the work of graduate and undergraduate students and teaching graduate and undergraduate courses in transportation engineering.”
Dr. Manjunatha is currently leading two STRIDE-funded projects: 1) “Evaluation of Advanced Vehicle and Communication Technologies through Traffic Microsimulation (Project D)” and 2) “Evaluation of Advanced Vehicle and Communication Technologies through Traffic Microsimulation, Phase II (Project I5)”. The goal of Phase I (Project D) was to develop a robust microscopic simulation extension to allow the evaluation of traffic operational quality considering the presence of connected autonomous vehicles using VISSIM. The purpose of Phase 2 (Project I5) is to develop and enhance traffic operational and environmental evaluation procedures in the presence of autonomous vehicles within a typical urban traffic stream. The research expands the extension applied in VISSIM from Phase I to use a real time optimization tool (RIO) previously developed with funding from NSF.
Dr. Manjunatha says that there are significant improvements in autonomous vehicle technologies. He says their connectivity and interaction with future generation traffic systems are expected to create a perfect storm in how vehicles will navigate through city roads and highways. I-STREET presents many opportunities for improving surface transportation efficiency and safety.
“As a part of I-STREET research, we strive to understand each of the elements,” he said. “The abbreviation of I-STREET encapsulates the nature of work we do. We are developing innovative research products for the connected and autonomous vehicle (CAV) ecosystem that could be commercialized on a larger scale.”
Pilot implementations of CAV technology on the I-STREET living lab allow researchers to evaluate the performance of these technologies. They also allow researchers to undertake perception and behavioral studies of road users with CAV technology. If you are interested in learning more about some of the topics highlighted in Dr. Manjunatha’ article, listen to a 2018 podcast at https://www.listennotes.com/podcasts/civil-conversations/episode-1-transportation-zGQ3Jm0qocM/